October 1, 2012

Even though my life has had its share of stumbles and bumbles, I have only one true regret: Why did I live at home during those all-important university years? The good news is that helping my daughter shop for a college this fall is giving me some vicarious thrills, insights, comfort — and fresh regrets.

While these feelings have been with me since forever, they are more vivid now because my daughter Gabi is a high school senior.  Between what we learned from my experiences and her own independent nature, we both look forward to her exploring dorm life some day soon. It doesn’t matter if she chooses a school within commuting distance. The girl has got to get away from me…and she can’t wait! Haha.

When I was a high school senior, it never ever crossed my mind to leave the Chinatown nest. First of all,  the idea was scary because I didn’t know where to go. Secondly, my parents raised me to live at home. I don’t ever remember us talking about me going away to school. Which leads to Point #3: I just wasn’t used to thinking for myself.

That’s the core reason for getting outta the house. To move beyond parental range (while benefitting from their financial support) offers a chance to try out different roles, have fun, and do things that Mom and Dad really don’t need to know about.

In staying home, I lost that unique chance to connect with myself and the world in a way that would’ve inspired confidence, experimentation and spontaneity. Of course, I was able to get all of those things for myself much later. But to be young, gorgeous and away at school….! Sigh.

With no personal experience in handling the college selection process, going through it now with Gabi is fascinating and weird. So strange for me to have zero context to drawn on. By the way, the process is EXHAUSTING. All those one-hour walking tours, plus the one-hour lecture/sales pitches.

After our first few visits, we started to know. We could tell what felt right or, at least, possible. In the process, we’ve both gotten excited about Gabi’s opportunities for taking courses, meeting people and being on her own.

I’ve benefited personally too; helping her makes me feel less bereft. Travelling together is also forcing her to spend time with me– haha again! Seriously though, I can’t wait to see what she decides.

In the meantime, this new stage of parenting is giving me a chance to delve into a whole range of emotions. The ability to mother a young woman with all of her moods and priorities is very different from taking care of a little girl. College hunting really has us crossing the line to the other side..

To be honest, I was initially worried about turning into my mom. She responded to my adulthood with jealousy and competitiveness. She was always quick to point out how much more she suffered, or how she worked harder, blah blah. I was afraid I would do that to my Gabi.

But I’m learning. So far, okay. I think.  Fingers crossed.    :)

P.S. — Time really does go so fast. If you’ve got kids in your house, make the most of the good moments when you’re not screaming at each other. This is what we looked like when my little cherub was a deliciously huggable baby.